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World Fantasy, Part I

Thursday 28th October

Warning: Really, really disconnected from my version of reality today, and my mind is wandering. This means my writing is less coherent than usual. Yes, I'm aware that It's not generally a model of coherency to begin with <g>.



Started at 4:30 in the morning. Which would have been okay, but the previous day ended at <mumble mumble> the same morning. Go me. I was almost finished the second Luna novel; my form of partial/outline is half a book, and after I had finished that, there was enough momentum going that I decided I would finish the whole first draft so there would be nothing between me and HOUSE WAR but a book review column or two. The coming of WFC clashed with the finishing of Cast in Courtlight,and I just managed to squeak out the last chapter. At very late in the morning. Of the same day I was leaving. It is at times like this that I wish I were some other writer <wry g>. I love endings because the sheer momentum is a joy; I wasn't sure that I would be able to finish before I left, and losing that momentum is … not so good.

I still have an epilogue to write, but tonally, epilogues rely not on the momentum of the story -- for me --but on the emotional resonance of the whole. Which is different. I'm babbling. My brain is in post-convention mode.

anyway, I actually made it to the airport early. No, really, andpuff. I was there two hours before flight time. I met ksumnersmith and Jana and wood_dragon and another woman who were also going to WFC on the same flight; they were more chipper and cheerful than I was. They were certainly better company than I was. I found coffee, but it didn't help.

Our flight landed late. It was raining in Phoenix. I discovered that the five dollar earphones they rent on American West planes so that you can hear the movie you're watching on teeny tiny screens three rows ahead of where you're actually sitting are basically normal ear-bud jack earphones. (I'm not an audiophile. They fit my iPod.) How did I discover this? I had my iPod.

I figured five dollars was an okay price for a set of headphones, but at the end of the flight, they apparently expect you to give them back, so on balance, not so good. On the other hand, I didn't rent a set, so I came out ahead.

I got to the hotel at sometime just after 10 in the morning. I don't actually carry a watch, or wear one. I asked. I thought I saw alicebentley on the shuttle in, but I wasn't absolutely certain, and decided to spare her my underslept self, just in case; as it turned out, when I saw her again, she was walking beside Greg Ketter, which was a dead giveaway: It was alicebentley. I got a chance to talk with her later, at the Dreamhaven booth in the dealer's room, which was fun. I asked bookstore questions. I also asked Greg how the @#$%@ he managed to get P.S. Publishing to ship him books, because we've offered in email to prepay 3 times, and either the email ether monster has eaten the email before it reached Peter Crowther, he hates us, or he's sold out of everything and doesn't answer. Oops. Digression.

I was rooming with kateelliott and her son. They had already arrived. I went upstairs, dropped stuff off, went downstairs, and then kind of meandered around before registering. I'm almost positive that I bumped into lnhammer while I was standing at the con registration desk, but I do remember that my first words were, "Where's janni?" followed quickly by the more social, "Ummm, Hi, I'm happy to see you too." I occasionally get things backwards in this particular fashion. He's generally kind enough to find this amusing.

I met sartorias in front of the registration desk, as well as Greer Gilman, who I had been introduced to for the first time (and for five seconds, along with hundreds of other people), in Boston. satorias was rooming with papersky and her son & escort zorinth, and I think I ran into papersky in the lobby before I went to the registration desk, but I could be wrong; I was lucky enough to see her frequently on the weekend, so her presence is a kind of a lovely continuity that spans the whole convention. Or the parts I saw. I called her son Zorinth for the first two days. Even after I knew his name.

At the registration desk, I met, without realizing it, marykaykare, although later, I did introduce myself because I did clue in. Later would be in the courtyard. On a different day. Yes, it was that kind of convention. A young woman working the registration desk, whose name was Nadine (because I can't remember her last name, and I'm terrible with names to begin with), called me "Ms. West". Which was sort of funny. It made me feel either Official or Old, and I told her I'm generally called "Michelle" <g>. She asked about House War. Which came as a bit of a surprise, and a welcome one at that; I got to talk to her later, and she even bought me a drink, and we talked about my writing, and why she likes it. Since she likes what I like about writing it, it was very energizing.

Sometimes readers like my writing for other reasons, and this is good too -- but there's something gratifying about a reader who likes the exact same thing about the finished work that I like and struggle with in the process.

I'm not used to this at WFCs; at Worldcons, because they're just so much larger, it's less surprising. Mostly because on the inside, I'm still living in 1991, shortly after my first published book, rather than in 2004, when I've had 12 books published, not including the short story collection. I still get a kick out of knowing that people are actually reading my books, and that they recognize me, and that they don't hate them.

Late lunch, with kateelliott and her son; we were joined by kijjohnson, who I don't think I've met before. She was lovely, and lively, and great company; she and kateelliott talked about Japan, among other things. I think I said something during this, but really, when two people are enthusing about something, it's sometimes enough to listen. (Yes, I know, it's rare for me; I imagine from the outside I was talking more than I think I was).

I did see papersky and her son after this, and also pnh and tnh, and I actually remembered to give pnh the book I'd carted from Toronto to give him. This is, unfortunately, a rare occurrence for me at a convention; it often happens that I remember when I'm packing to go back home.

I met Rodger Turner and the publisher of Tachyon Press (remember what I said about names? But I'd certainly recognize him if I saw him again, and he did give me a proof of a collection that I wanted to read), and I babbled in my particular way. This would be exposure to Michelle, and I think he was a tiny bit shell-shocked. Rodger probably finds it amusing, though. Rodger is one of the WFC committee. I met him, though, through the former owner of our bookstore -- they're friends, and he used to come and visit during the summer. The first time I met him, it was in the bookstore during one of these vacations -- because he came to work at the store for two days. There aren't many people who like to go somewhere else to work on their vacation, and he's fairly distinctive to begin with. It was only years later that I realized he was connected to the fandom that runs WFC.

After this, I wandered around for a bit, and then picked up a bunch of people for dinner; janni, lnhammer, Greer Gilman, Jill Knowles, and another woman whose name escapes me, kateelliott and her son, and the people sitting at the far end of the long table whose names I also don't remember. The name thing is a theme for me. Sorry.

We came back from dinner, I spoke with Nadine, and then we went to the Rapid Fire Reading panel -- ten authors, five minutes each -- which was fun. The MC was Gwyneth Jones, also one of the GOHs, and she was a surprise reading addition at the end; she was fabulous, and her reading was funny. Actually, almost all of the readings were good; given 5 minutes, I wouldn't be finished either my pre-reading rant or my pre-reading ramble <wry g>.

And then I sat in on the Why Adults Are Reading YA panel (that's not the title, watch me be too lazy to go and look it up). It was interesting. The moderator was the only male on the panel, and he had some pretty distinct views, and his views were not shared in any way by the other panelists. My feeling -- since this was at 11:00 p.m. -- would have been summed up "Because they like it". But I was pretty tired at that point, having woken up at 4:30 on very little sleep. sdn was also tired, but in fine form; she was probably the most vocal, but everyone had something intelligent to say in response; janni looked positively annoyed, which, if you know her in person, is rare.

After the panel, I should have stumbled off to bed, but I had the opportunity to talk with sdn , Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and for a while another young woman who I would recognize if I saw her again, but whose name tag I couldn't see (the name tags, more often than not, flipped name-inwards). Well. It was the first time I'd ever met sdn, and although I've met Nina before, I've usually had about 15 minutes worth of time in which to say anything, and she's usually had a lot of people she knows in attendance (I asked the man beside her, the second time we met, if she knew everyone and while she was saying "No, of course I don't" he was nodding his head. He was, I found out, Charles Vess. And he said, "Watch Nina for this convention. See if she's ever with the same group of people twice." Hee.

Publishing talk is fun, and that's most of what we did. I discovered something about why people laugh when I say things, though. sdn said something incredibly blunt about YA fiction, and I broke out laughing, and she looked at me and said, "Why are you laughing? It's true!" And, in fact, I had one of those moments in which I feel I'm looking in a mirror, because I've said the exact same thing in response to laughter so many times in my life, it's not possible to count them. And I realized that the reason people laugh is because what I've said is true. And I've said it. It's the declarative nature of the sentiment, the fact that it was said at all, that's funny.

sdn was the other delight of the convention, for me. It's seldom that I spend time with someone who's as blunt as I am, but she's taller and -- yes -- vastly more elegant. And she has really long hair, and everything about her seems so definite, you could not mistake her for anyone else, ever. Plus, I love her taste in books.

After, sleep.

Comments

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
msagara
Nov. 1st, 2004 10:19 pm (UTC)
You're more elegant than you think you are (or maybe it's only because you let your sister dress you [will she hit me for saying that?]), but, yes, you are blunt.

She won't hit you for saying it; she says it all the time <wry g>.
scott_lynch
Nov. 1st, 2004 09:02 pm (UTC)
Dammit, if you name a book something as lovely as Cast in Courtlight, I might just have to buy it even though I know nothing about it. Tricksy author! Names book lovely, Smeagol's wallet just spits out money, yesss...
msagara
Nov. 1st, 2004 10:20 pm (UTC)
Dammit, if you name a book something as lovely as Cast in Courtlight, I might just have to buy it even though I know nothing about it. Tricksy author! Names book lovely, Smeagol's wallet just spits out money, yesss...

What I'm actually wondering about that title is if they'll split the word. Because there's no such English word; it would correctly be "Court Light", rather than "Courtlight". But I like the second better; it has more fantasy resonance for me.

Ummm, and given how much I hate titles, or having to come up with them, thank you <g>.
scott_lynch
Nov. 2nd, 2004 12:34 am (UTC)
I think you've mentioned that anxiety before... but for crying out loud, when standard English useage butts heads with something really beautiful and only slightly off-kilter, off-kilter should win!
rachelmanija
Nov. 1st, 2004 10:01 pm (UTC)
Who was the moderator on the YA panel, and what did he say? Also, what did Sharyn say?

msagara
Nov. 1st, 2004 10:17 pm (UTC)
Who was the moderator on the YA panel, and what did he say? Also, what did Sharyn say?

In my usual haze, I don't actually know what the name of the moderator was. I think janni can fill you in on that, because she was sitting beside him and not actually hitting him. But his comments were longish and basically of the school that says people are reading YAs because they're simpler, good and evil is more black and white, they offer escape and clarity -- I can't remember it all.

Sharyn said, "No." But it was longer. Actually she did use the word "eviscerate" at one point, in reference to what she wanted to do with his statement, but also added that she was really, really tired. She made a point of stating that she thinks people think YAs are about talking down to, well, YAs, and this is wrong; she also pointed out that there's a passion and a focus, a depth of energy, that one has when one's younger that a good YA encompasses.

Actually, she said it better.

He was trying to keep the focus on why adults read YA novels, which, given it was the topic, was not a bad thing for a moderator to do -- but the sweeping comments that he'd made kind of made it difficult not to talk about the nature of writing YAs, and the nature of the audience one has in mind.

I'm hoping that sdn will post about it at some time. Or that janni will. My mind was almost in the off position by that time.
lnhammer
Nov. 2nd, 2004 07:18 am (UTC)
But his comments were longish and basically of the school that says people are reading YAs because they're simpler, good and evil is more black and white, they offer escape and clarity -- I can't remember it all.

Pretty much it. All of which is wrong, of course.

The biggest reason why adults like it, which he didn't seem to get even though it was repeated several times by panelists and audience, is that they're better written, both on the sentence level and in tying off their story more efficiently and effectively. And sometimes you want that.

---L.
drunkencricket
Nov. 4th, 2004 01:43 pm (UTC)
All of which is wrong, of course.

Being an avid reader of nearly anything, and having a huge supply of YA books at my immediate disposal, I can say from my perspective that his answer isn't really wrong. Maybe a bit simplistic, but not wrong, per se.

The reasons I read YA fiction is entirely dependant on the author, the topic, the amount of time I have, my mood, and any of a number of other things - including the reasons he gave.

Sometimes it is because of the ease of "black and white" distinction (often truer in the older works), sometimes it is the completeness of the escape offered, sometimes it is the perspectives or experiences offered that I never had at the target age that are interesting to explore now that I am older, sometimes it is the fast, sometimes hard-hitting story that isn't quite a "short story" but isn't a novel that it takes me hours and hours to read, either.
msagara
Nov. 4th, 2004 02:46 pm (UTC)
The reasons I read YA fiction is entirely dependant on the author, the topic, the amount of time I have, my mood, and any of a number of other things - including the reasons he gave.

I can think of at least 2 YAs I've read this year that are far more bleak and bitter -- and hopeless -- than any of the Adult novels, and more realistic in their grim depictions as well.

As I said, at 11:00 p.m. my answer would have been "Because they like it". Or, conversely, "Because I like it", depending on how the question was phrased.

You've given a broad enough answer that you've hit upon part of the weakness of his argument: It's narrow. It's far too narrow for the genre under discussion, imho. Oh, okay, nsho.

I would, however, hesitate to say "because they're better written" as a blanket statement (this is in response to lnhammer now).
drunkencricket
Nov. 5th, 2004 10:05 am (UTC)
I can think of at least 2 YAs I've read this year that are far more bleak and bitter -- and hopeless -- than any of the Adult novels, and more realistic in their grim depictions as well.

Yes. I have read quite a few of the newer YA novels where I walk away from the book hoping that this isn't the perspective of youth these days. But sometimes it is my perspective on the direction the world is headed that it resonates. Things can often seem more black and white during the teenage years so I am sure youth will see the world this way (hopefully only sometimes, but I am sure it is part of the mercurial nature of teenage perspective).

New YA authors now have the benefit of being able to paint a greater array of truth of that age group's experiences and today's social environments - instead of being forced to fit their novels into the goody-goody, "the thing I most need to worry about is whether I have acne before the prom" perspective. Life never has been all rosy, and now there are books that admit it.
janni
Nov. 2nd, 2004 07:09 pm (UTC)
But his comments were longish and basically of the school that says people are reading YAs because they're simpler, good and evil is more black and white, they offer escape and clarity

That was pretty much it. And we pretty much all responded, "no, that's not true," in varying ways and from varying perspectives.

And he apparently hadn't really expected anyone to disagree with him, let alone all four of us.
sartorias
Nov. 2nd, 2004 06:11 am (UTC)
A fellow named Gary Wassner, who has self-published his fantasy trilogy. (Google on his name, he has a very elaborate website for said trilogy, called, as I remember, GemQuest.) Eother self-pubbed or a vanity like XLibris, I forget which.
trektone
Nov. 1st, 2004 10:02 pm (UTC)
Tachyon dude was probably Jacob Weisman. He's from San Francisco. I saw him the previous weekend at a booksigning.
msagara
Nov. 1st, 2004 10:18 pm (UTC)
Tachyon dude was probably Jacob Weisman. He's from San Francisco. I saw him the previous weekend at a booksigning.

Yes! Thank you, that was the person. I liked him; the fact that I don't remember his name is completely my own failing. The ARC he was kind enough to hand me was the Eileen Gunn collection.
kate_nepveu
Nov. 2nd, 2004 07:08 am (UTC)
And then I sat in on the Why Adults Are Reading YA panel . . . . My feeling -- since this was at 11:00 p.m. -- would have been summed up "Because they like it".

Yeah, that's why I skip these panels.

I'm surprised to hear that a self-published author was on a panel, just because I'd got the impression that WFC was much more concerned with pros than some other cons.
lnhammer
Nov. 2nd, 2004 07:14 am (UTC)
He's been doing heavy self-promotion. Also, the self-publishing is disguised by a press name.

---L.
sdn
Nov. 2nd, 2004 07:31 am (UTC)
i actually did some research about this. apparently the books were originally published by iuniverse, and then picked up by a place that i did not quite understand.
lnhammer
Nov. 2nd, 2004 07:53 am (UTC)
They are a little wierd. It's a hard to reconcile their disperate claims.

---L.
kate_nepveu
Nov. 2nd, 2004 07:58 am (UTC)
A quick glance indicates that they pay on net not gross, and that their books are very expensive.

Those two together make me raise my eyebrows.
lnhammer
Nov. 2nd, 2004 07:13 am (UTC)
I love the title Cast in Courtlight. Don't think I managed to tell you that in person.

At the dinner, the woman between Jill and me was Bonni Rogers, though her name badge said Renee Rogers, one of her pen names; she's in our writer's group. The couple at the end of the table were Tom and Annita Harlan, possibly better known as the parents of Thomas Harlan, though Annita has sold short stories of her own.

---L.
msagara
Nov. 4th, 2004 02:50 pm (UTC)
I love the title Cast in Courtlight. Don't think I managed to tell you that in person.

Did I answer this? Did I even see it? Do I hate email notifications more than ever? I am so grumpy today :/.

But, thank you <wry g>. Thomas Harlan, the son, would be the multi-published Tor author, yes? (And thank you for the names; Jill was distinctive and had an edge to her humour, and that tends to, sadly, be one of the few things that fixes names in my mind).
sdn
Nov. 2nd, 2004 07:25 am (UTC)
::blushing::
sdn was the other delight of the convention, for me. It's seldom that I spend time with someone who's as blunt as I am, but she's taller and -- yes -- vastly more elegant. And she has really long hair, and everything about her seems so definite, you could not mistake her for anyone else, ever. Plus, I love her taste in books.

i am sitting here blushing. thank you. it was equally wonderful to meet you! do you often find that you are the person who says the things that no one else says? (and are surprised by this?)

i am, however, not elegant. my mother was elegant. i drop food on my clothing.

and, finally, if i learned anything from that panel, it was this: sometimes one has to sheath one's edges for a few hours. not be any less opinionated, but be a little more gracious. so i actually owe the moderator some thanks.
janni
Nov. 2nd, 2004 07:17 pm (UTC)
Re: ::blushing::
not be any less opinionated, but be a little more gracious

It would have been easier to be gracious if the hour were earlier, and if the moderator didn't begin with a 5 minute prepared statement, by the end of which I think we all had shed much of the graciousness and tact we entered the panel with.
msagara
Nov. 4th, 2004 02:55 pm (UTC)
Re: ::blushing::
</i>i am sitting here blushing. thank you. it was equally wonderful to meet you! do you often find that you are the person who says the things that no one else says? (and are surprised by this?)</i>

I am often the person who says things that no one else says. Or rather, I'm the person who often asks "Why are you laughing? It's true!" I ... am less surprised by this than I would have been ten years ago.

</i>i am, however, not elegant. my mother was elegant. i drop food on my clothing.</i>

Once a year doesn't count; everyone does that.
sdn
Nov. 4th, 2004 04:07 pm (UTC)
Re: ::blushing::
once a DAY i drop food. sometimes more! why do you think i have so many black dresses etc? in fact, today i am wearing a black blazer, black pants, and a white shirt.
mmarques
Nov. 4th, 2004 10:26 am (UTC)
On the topic of people reading your books.... I'm about 75% through Hunter's Oath. Next time I drop by the store, I'll probably want to pick up the next book... is it in stock?

BTW, the back-of-book blurb did not appeal to me, but I'm very much enjoying this book.
msagara
Nov. 4th, 2004 01:06 pm (UTC)
On the topic of people reading your books.... I'm about 75% through Hunter's Oath. Next time I drop by the store, I'll probably want to pick up the next book... is it in stock?

As of today, yes, we have it in stock <g>. I think it's 10.99, but don't remember. (For everyone in the US, this is, of course, the Canadian price).

BTW, the back-of-book blurb did not appeal to me, but I'm very much enjoying this book.

Can I ask you -- since I didn't write the back cover copy -- what about it put you off? Be as blunt as you like; I'm curious, and it's possible that with other books, at different times, I'll have some input or say.
mmarques
Nov. 6th, 2004 08:16 am (UTC)
The back-of-book blurb seems to focus most on the scenario that makes this story clearly in a unique world (the sacred hunt, the hunt brothers) without showing how it also incorporates universal truths (relationships among the characters, good vs evil). The line about destiny didn't make it clear that this hunt story is only a part of a larger story.... from the blurb, the destiny could be about the hunt itself (for example, being the greatest hunters ever).

I care about the hunt within the scope of caring about the characters, and with regards to the bigger story going on. Maybe if the back-of-book blurb didn't try to gloss every aspect of what makes the hunt unique, and included an intriguing sentence about Evayne, it would have been more appealing to me.

However, I might not be the typical person you are trying to reach. I used to read a fair bit of fantasy, but mostly read historical mysteries and science fiction these days.
msagara
Nov. 6th, 2004 08:27 am (UTC)
The back-of-book blurb seems to focus most on the scenario that makes this story clearly in a unique world (the sacred hunt, the hunt brothers) without showing how it also incorporates universal truths (relationships among the characters, good vs evil). The line about destiny didn't make it clear that this hunt story is only a part of a larger story.... from the blurb, the destiny could be about the hunt itself (for example, being the greatest hunters ever).

I went back and read the back blurb after your comment, to see what my several-years-later take on it was (when I first got that cover, I adored the cover so much, they weren't separate; it's still one of my favourite covers -- on my books, let me hastily add -- but at the time it was such a big improvement over the previous covers I'd had). I wondered if it didn't sound too tribal, or somehow less civilized.

However, I might not be the typical person you are trying to reach. I used to read a fair bit of fantasy, but mostly read historical mysteries and science fiction these days.

I'm not sure there is a typical person I'm trying to reach, though. One of my earliest correspondents couldn't quite decide whether or not to pick up the book, and she basically wandered around the store looking at everything else and eventually coming back to it. She did like it (or she wouldn't have written) -- but it wasn't something that grabbed her instantly, either.

So the cover itself -- the art, the front part -- seems to be responsible for people picking it up. I've been thinking about back cover copy because I was asked for some input or opinion on the back cover copy for the Luna novel. Oddly enough, I didn't then go back to the published novels to scrutinize them, but maybe I should.
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